Hanoi's oldest market Dong Xuan mainly sells bulk food items, clothing and accessories targeted towards locals in its three storeys of packed aisles.
The original market opened in 1889, and while the facade remains, the interior was completely rebuilt after a fire in 1994 that killed several people.
Dong Xuan takes up an entire city block. It's huge and really does sell pretty much everything, though it's not really a tourist market. If you’re looking for gifts to take home then you’re better off hunting around Hang Gai and Hang Hom. A few stalls do sell the usual tourist paraphernalia—silk cushion covers, chopsticks—so it won’t be a wasted trip if that’s what you’re after, but don’t go expecting a wealth of options.
Come though simply to experience a typical Southeast Asian wet market on the ground floor and in the market's surrounds, where you'll see plenty of colourful fresh produce as well as sacks full of dried mushrooms, fish and other dry goods. Upstairs is mainly cloth and clothes, and there's a food hall here too, though the ones just outside the market seem to attract more of a crowd, at least during the day (perhaps it's busy early morning). Shops surround the streets leading onto the market; we snapped up some coffee filters at one of the shops just outside the market for 20,000 dong each.
Don’t go during lunch or in the early afternoon, when it's siesta time. Unless you want to have to nudge the stallholders from their slumber or interrupt their lunch, which is not likely to get you a good price, come earlier in the day or late in the afternoon. Do be careful of your belongings, too. There have been reports of theft and it’s easy to see why: the aisles are narrow and there’s a lot of squeezing through gaps, when it’s easy for someone to reach into an open bag or slit it open.
We'd suggest tying in a visit here with a stop to see Long Bien Bridge nearby, which was built around the same time.
Alternatively, pop back for the night market that spills into the streets surrounding Dong Xuan and down to Hoan Kiem lake on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings from sundown. This market has more in the way of souvenirs, and lots of snacks stalls too.
How to get there
To get there head up Hang Ngang Street from the junction of Hang Bo/Hang Bac and keep going straight. You can’t miss the market.
By Samantha Brown.
Last updated on 16th March, 2017.
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